One Purpose: Divided We Fall


by Grace Rachmany

September 15, 2022

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For the purposes of a Network State, according to the author Balaji Srinivasan , there must be one, and only One Commandment, a moral innovation that sets this state apart from the existing system. It’s an appealing concept. If you just have one point of differentiation, one moral imperative, one unique selling point, as it were, you can rally enough people behind this concept and create your own digital Network State. Yet, as appealing as this concept is, it’s about as solid as the idea that you can explain all of religion by the Golden Rule. It’s a guiding principle but it’s not the whole thing. One Commandment works well enough for products and services, but it is unlikely to e adequate substance to hold an actual state together.

The evidence is in the DAOs we’re seeing today. Anyone who has participated in a DAO has presumably signed up for that one mission statement. It could be the maintenance of a stablecoin, integrity in peer-reviewed scientific research, or funding of public goods. Whatever DAO you entered, it probably didn’t take you more than a few weeks to find out that the mission statement and the culture are two completely different things—and that as a human being, the thing that keeps you involved in the DAO is the culture, not the mission statement.

It’s natural. You want to hang out with people you like, with people who have similar values, similar work ethics, and similar communications styles to yours. Otherwise, things rapidly deteriorate, or you rapidly quit the DAO. It just didn’t vibe.

It that’s the way you feel about online communities, imagine what happens when these One-Commandment groups buy properties nearby one another and create communities. Now they have to agree on a large number of mundane cultural norms such as whether to mow lawns (or allow for natural weeds and biodiverse overgrowth), recycle, build bike lanes, have shops open on Sundays, fund a fire brigade, maintain monetary policy, and establish a school curriculum for their children. All of a sudden that one moral imperative gets spread very thin. And that’s in good times.

What happens in a major crisis like a flood, spike in energy prices, or sanctions from another network state? Does your Network State have the shared values to decide what to do in these kinds of cases? Not on One Commandment, you don’t. And if that flood or famine hits one of your nodes, do all the nodes kick in to save that node? It’s not obvious that your One Commandment will keep them together. I mean, Pakistan and Bangladesh didn’t hold it together very well, with a good deal more than One Commandment to unite them.

Cultural cohesion is even more of a challenge when we are talking about digital natives—people who have, for the last 20 years, atrophied their capabilities for collaborative human actions and face-to-face social interactions. Many have no experience with any type of community belonging or ritual. In most of the world today, having enough money has substituted for the need to get along with one’s neighbors. If you are building a new nation together, money and a fierce sense of individualism aren’t going to cut it as unifying factors.

Our research into ecovillages, chamas, and community currencies shows us that the shared culture is the hardest part. As human beings we have quirks, foibles, and flaws. Shared rituals and culture have helped people over the ages unify despite their uniqueness as individuals. Whether it’s national holidays, fables, myths, harvest rituals, language, or a canonical protocol, any culture or nation that has held together for any period of time has had a rich culture of norms. Many of them are arbitrary: it isn’t particularly important whether you offer guests a coffee or a beer as a sign they are welcome in your home (or a sign that it’s time to go now). But many of the rituals are important and have survived over generations for real reasons, such as rituals for burying or cremating the deceased. Without these elaborate lists of rites, rituals, ethnic and ethical nuances, it’s impossible to have anything like a culture, nation, or community. Even when it comes to your One Commandment, there will be people who are more extreme purists and others who want to cheat on it every now and again, whether it’s veganism or monogamy.

Maybe it all works out, though, because you start with the digital online state and only those people who “vibe” buy a chunk of land together. Maybe only those people who already live in the same culture buy a piece of land together. Maybe you have a network state that truly is nothing more than one shared value, like paleo-kosher or no-till farming. It would be unprecedented, but what isn’t unprecedented these days?

At Priceless we think this approach is naive at best, and destructive at worst. People just aren’t built to live by one simple rule. Priceless does have One Commandment in terms of its guiding principle: cherishing aliveness and vitality. Yet, we know this will have multiple interpretations and implementations depending on the local cultures and needs of each physical community.

For that reason, Priceless Economics will be developing a new set of scriptures for adapting people to living in community. The scriptures will be released as NFT drops, with a limited number of items being editable.

As we compose these scriptures, we will draw upon myths and tales that have stood the test of time in the different locations where we implement the Priceless Economic regional experiments. Overlaying the myths will be practices that have been developed over the past decades by the ecovillage and intentional community networks, online communities, and other psychotechnologies that have proven themselves in communities. Every community will have the ability to modify rituals, invent their own, and make suggestions for updates to the scriptures on an annual basis.

Over the course of a decade, Priceless Economics will develop a number of sects or denominations of the Priceless culture or religion, based on what evolves and what works. Just as the scriptures of previous cultures were co-written by different authors over time, we will call on the communities themselves to co-create the new culture that will evolve alongside the new forms of economics and group organization that are necessary to bring humanity to a place where we can live within the planetary boundaries and in a society that speaks to our better nature.

Culture that unifies communities. That’s Priceless.